Tuesday, November 16, 2010







At Political Hotsheet, CBS News' Brian Montopoli offers a clear-eyed analysis of the Afghanistan War and it's endings and 'endings' that may be just around that 'turned corner.' He also notes Iraq briefly:
Even if things go well between now and then - a big if - 2014 would not be the end of the war. The end of "combat operations," as the Iraq war has shown, does not mean the end of American troop deaths - nine Americans have died in Iraq since Mr. Obama hailed the end of combat operations there in September.
That's because if the combat operation does end in 2014, America will most likely still keep "non-combat" troops - who will be combat capable - in the country. (The "non-combat" troops in Iraq are still fighting alongside Iraqis and engaging in "targeted counterterrorism operations.")
Turning now to Iraq War Veteran Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. The Bradley Manning Support Network notes that today is day 139 of imprisonment for Bradley.
Last week the Bradley Manning Support Network issued a statement:

Washington, DC, November 10, 2010 – Last week, David House, a developer working with the Bradley Manning Support Network, was detained and had his computer seized by the FBI when returning from a vacation in Mexico. He committed no crime, nor was he ever alleged to have committed a crime. He was questioned extensively about his support for alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned at Quantico for over 160 days.

This invasive search is of great concern to all Americans who value the Constitutionally-protected rights to free speech and free assembly. The campaign to free Bradley Manning – which has garnered the support of tens of thousands of individuals from across the United States and the world – is rooted in a belief that government transparency is key to a healthy democracy. Our network stands firm in support of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning and has raised over $80,000 for his defense. If he is a source for documents published by WikiLeaks illuminating the campaign of disinformation about US foreign wars, then Manning deserves the gratitude of the entire nation.
House sent an email to the Network describing his detainment, saying that, "My computer, video camera, and flash drive were confiscated, leaving me in a tough spot in terms of research obligations; the reason for the seizure, said the officials, was 'border search.'"
The FBI denied House's requests to have a copy of his research data. This seems to be part of a disturbing trend of intimidation and property seizure being carried out against activists critical of US policies, including the detainment and laptop seizure of activist Jacob Applebaum in July and the September 24th FBI raids against antiwar and social justice activists.
The topic was explored further last Thursday,when Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio) spoke with Mike Gogulski of the Bradley Manning Support Network. Excerpt:
Scott Horton: Something happened to a guy named David House who works with you.
Mike Gogulski: Yeah, yeah. David House is a friend of Bradley's and he was in touch with us very early on when we were first putting the network together as an organization. He was on our founding conference calls and also provided us with some technical assistance on the website. Being that he's a friend of Brad's, he's visited Bradley at Quantico two or three times since Bradley was moved from the field confinement facility in Kuwait to the -- to the US Embassy brig at Quantico, Virginia. So David, last week, was returning from a vacation to Mexico and in the process of making a connection at Chicago O'Hare Airport was detained by customs initially, later DHS and FBI, questioned extensively about his involvement with Bradley Manning, why he was visiting Manning in prison, what his connection was to us and, additionally, his electronic devices were seized and detained including a laptop computer. Now he was requested to provide the encryption keys to decrypt the contents of his computer which he refused to do. And he requested of the DHS and the FBI that he be able to get the twenty hours worth of programming work that he'd accomplished at some point during his vacation so that he wouldn't lose that product of his labor. And he wasn't allowed to do that. So he was given a receipt for the equipment which listed the laptop as worth $30 and the camera and the cell phone -- sorry, the camera and the memory stick as worth nothing and apparently the cell phone was returned to him after its contents were copied.
This is part of the ongoing harassment of activists by the federal government. Friday, September 24th FBI raids took place on at least seven homes of peace activists -- the FBI admits to raiding seven homes -- and the FBI raided the offices of Anti-War Committee. Just as that news was breaking, the National Lawyers Guild issued a new report, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US." Heidi and Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner covered the topic on WBAI's Law and Disorder Radio including during a conversation with Margaret Ratner-Kunstler which you can hear at the program's site by going into the archives and the program has also transcribed their discussion with Margaret and you can read it here. Nicole Colson (US Socialist Worker) spoke with Michael Ratner about the raids and you can also refer to that. November 8th, Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) noted a development, "We turn now to an update on the fallout from the FBI raids in late September that targeted antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury were served on thirteen people but later withdrawn when the activists asserted their right to remain silent. But this week the Justice Department said it intends to enforce the subpoenas for some of them and require them to appear before a grand jury. All those subpoenaed have been involved with antiwar activism that is critical of US foreign policy in Colombia and the Middle East." The National Lawyers Guild's Bruce Nestor joined the show briefly:
BRUCE NESTOR: Three people are now being -- looking at reappearing in front of the grand jury and likely being forced with the choice between talking about who they meet with, what the political beliefs of their friends and allies are, or perhaps risking contempt and sitting in jail for eighteen months. These are people who are deeply rooted in the progressive community in Chicago and Minneapolis. These are grandmothers, they're mothers, they're union activists. They were some of the organizers of the largest antiwar march at the 2008 Republican National Convention. And so -- and they're being prosecuted under this material support for terrorism law, a law that was really enhanced under the PATRIOT Act and that allows, in the government's own words, for people to be prosecuted for their speech if they coordinate it with a designated foreign terrorist organization. What you run the risk of there is that even if you state your own independent views about US foreign policy, but those views somehow reflect a group that the US has designated as a terrorist organization, you can be accused of coordinating your views and face, if not prosecution, at least investigation, search warrants, being summoned to a grand jury to talk about who your political allies and who your political friends are. So, so far, this law has largely been used against individuals, often Muslim Americans.
John Catalinotto (Workers World) reported Friday on a recent solidarity meet-up in Manhattan:
At the Nov. 6 meeting, civil liberties attorney Bruce Nestor, who represents those subpoenaed, said the Department of Justice is re-subpoenaing three of the 14 targeted anti-war activists. Nestor explained that they have the choice of testifying against their friends and the movement or potentially serving jail time for contempt of court if they refuse.
Among those speaking were several of the activists whose homes were raided: Steff Yorek, Mick Kelly, Hatem Abudayyeh and Jess Sundin. Tom Burke co-chaired the meeting with Cherrene Horazuk.
Kelly gave an overview of the FBI offensive, which reached as far as California and North Carolina, although most of those subpoenaed were in Minneapolis and Chicago. He also thanked the movement in general for the quick and widespread solidarity expressed in demonstrations in more than 60 cities in the first weeks after the home invasions.
Sundin and Abudayyeh added more political insight, and also gave a feel for the personal side of being ambushed by the FBI and having your home, your life and your children's sense of security disrupted by the brutal state apparatus.
On the Law and Disorder Radio broadcast that began airing October 4th, hosts Michael S. Smith and Heidi Boghosian explained what you should do if the FBI attempts to question you:
Michael S. Smith: Heidi, when the FBI knocks, what do you do?
Heidi Boghosian: It is crucial that if anyone listening to this show is contacted by the FBI or if your friends or family members are, that you do not talk to them. You just say, "I would like to consult with my lawyer. May I have your business card? My lawyer will get back to you." Never say anything because anything you say, no matter how seemingly mundane -- answering a question: Do you live here?, Is your name such and such? -- can be used against you in further grand jury proceedings.
Michael S. Smith: Well they can go after you saying that you lied to them. Don't talk to them. Call your lawyer. Call our hotline. Get out a pencil. Heidi, give them the hotline.
Heidi Boghosian: If you're visited by the FBI, you can call the NLG's Hotline. It's 888-NLG-ECOL. Or 888-654-3265.
Michael S. Smith: Heidi, please repeat the hotline.
Heidi Boghosian: The hotline is 888-NLG-ECOL. And how you can remember that is that originally we started this as a hotline for environmental and animal rights activists so it was for ecology. It was Eco Law but we shortened it.
Sahar Issa (Miami Herald) reported Saturday, "Iraq averted a new political crisis Saturday when the head of the main Sunni-backed bloc ended a walkout and returned to parliament, paving the way for the formation of a new government." Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reminded, "The return came after Iraqiya's leader, secular Shiite Ayad Allawi, told CNN on Friday that he would 'not be a part of this theater,' adding: 'I am thinking of forming a council for opposition from inside parliament to start building the issues that we think are right for this country and to use all possible peaceful means to achieve the objectives'." Fadel also notes that Allawi is out of the country currently (in London). Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) offered, "But Saturday's session could be a fleeting "kumbaya" moment: The weeks ahead are sure to be stormy as the sides brawl over the meaning of the often vague language of the agreement. In fact, even as the sides celebrated the end of the political crisis, the head of Iraqiya, Iyad Allawi, muddied the waters." John Leland and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) broke it down to the basics, "On Saturday, members of Iraqiya took part in a low-key session that consisted largely of ceremonial remarks. Representatives avoided initiatives that might have renewed the fractiousness of the previous session. In the end, they voted on a general plan for sharing power, but did not address any of the details that have divided the blocs. The members agreed to meet next on Nov. 21, after the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with via "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, eight days and counting.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Continued upheaval, continued lack of government"
"The 2012 rollout"
"And the war drags on . . ."
"The Iraq elections (talking entry)"
"Plenty of drama but no prime minister"
"Deployments, PTSD"

"No one will bring him some ham"